Saturday, 1 November 2014

Who is Lansa?

My short story, 'A Proper English Tea', introduces a mysterious, and quite disturbing, character. The story starts just after she has appeared in a tea shop when she introduces herself as Lansa.  She is not there to buy tea.  She is looking for something she calls 'The vapour'.

So who, or what, is Lansa?  Her appearance is described as:
Her long straight black hair clung strangely to her pale head and neck, merging invisibly with her black cape.
Her skin looked clammy, dead.  She looked empty.
Her form is that of a young woman, but whether she is one or not is not certain.  She could be a manifestation of something else; something attempting to appear as a human female.  If so, then it is an attempt that is only partially successful.  Her deathly appearance and inhuman manner, and the effect she seems to have on her surroundings (the sudden onset of rain and the lack of people and cars outside) does nothing other than spook the tea shop's owner, Ella.

My view is that Lansa is a kind of 'moment of mortality' ghost; a second physical manifestation of someone attempting to warn of an impending life-threatening event.  It is likely that Ella is in mortal danger. But it seems that Lansa fails to get the warning across.  What that danger is is not made clear, but the clue is perhaps in what she says she's looking for: 'the vapour'.

Maybe there's a gas leak?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Weight of Command

There are many ways a leader can earn the respect of their subordinates, such as making consistently good decisions in dire circumstances, exuding confidence in the face of extreme uncertainty, and dealing firmly but fairly with gross displays of insubordination.  But there is one other quality that the leader of the Palace of Amino's Battle Command is convinced commands the greatest of respect: the size of his belly.  And the bigger the belly, the deeper the respect.

For centuries Commander Pepe has been building himself up to be a great leader in every sense of the word.  Over the course of the nine Palace of Amino novels the commander takes every opportunity to pile on the weight, and grows steadily throughout the series from an already obese individual into something almost monstrous, a humanoid almost unable to walk or fit into the oversized chair in his office.  He develops into a nauseatingly formidable presence, a presence amplified by the many layers of his thick official robes.  He rarely leaves the confines of Amino Battle Command, situated deep below the palace.  He only does so to go up to his lavish and reinforced apartment high in the Central Tower.

Vengeance of the Lump-Being
Commander Pepe's obsession with growing ever larger is demonstrated during the closing chapter of 'Vengeance of the Lump-Being', when he greets top-class bounty hunters returning from a distant mission.  Ross Mental eloquently points out just how much fatter the commander has become.  The commander explains why:
“In the year and a half you’ve all been away I’ve managed to squeeze an extra three meals into my daily schedule, and reduce the amount of physical exertion I must endure by fifty per cent. One of the most energetic activities I do now is to walk from my bed to the lift that takes me down to Battle Command.”

Peter the Ace then wonders why the commander would want to gain even more mass, to which the commander responds:
“Two reasons: first, to gain even more respect from my subordinates. And second, to be able to support even more oiled and intoxicated masseurs on my gut.”

That last sentence shows that respect is not his only motivation to expand his waistline, but we should leave that for another time.

Invasion of the Scab Demons
In the ninth novel, 'Invasion of the Scab Demons', there is a particular focus on Commander Pepe and his feelings and motivations during what turns out to be his most demanding leadership challenge yet.  The immensity of the stress the commander is experiencing forces him to spend the majority of his days in his massage chamber undergoing deeper and deeper treatments. He spends so much time there that he eventually ends up attending several important meetings in the middle of his treatments, during one of which we are forced to imagine a disturbing sight when we read:
His body wobbled like a thuggoth’s backside, and then his towel slipped open revealing the largest set of mud-smeared man-breasts ever seen.  The commander made no attempt to cover them up.

The commander's bizarre pride with his gargantuan physical appearance is highlighted in this scene, during the mid point of the novel:
Commander Pepe stood by the large panoramic window of his office and looked out at the huge and bustling main chamber of Amino Battle Command.  He smiled and nodded slowly, his multiple chins undulating like sacks of jelly.  He was incredibly proud of his teams down there.  They worked tirelessly, and with a dedication second only to the bounty hunters they supported and protected.  Apart from two unsightly assistants on the External Defences team, whose sweaty appearance and attitude had bothered the commander for decades, every single person worked hard and with flawless enthusiasm.  It was a magnificent and inspiring display of loyalty. And it was irrefutable evidence of their tremendous respect for his corpulent authority.

Despite the preposterous nature of Commander Pepe's belief that respect for his authority increases as his weight increases, his belief does seem to have some basis in reality.  He does tend to engender respect from is subordinates, and even the highest ranking bounty hunters.  He is indeed a 'great' leader.

To finish, here is an extract from an earlier novel, 'Mechanism'. As Commander Pepe contemplates what seems to be the imminent destruction of the Palace of Amino and his own demise, he imagines how he will be remembered when the palace has been reconstructed.  It cements in the reader's mind just how important the continual growth of his own belly is to the commander:
Commander Pepe drifted into a fantasy world where a huge kilometre tall statue of himself stood at the centre of the new palace.  On the plaque would read:  ‘Commander Pepe, brave and fearless leader of the Palace of Amino’s Battle Command.  Destroyed just outside his massage chamber by the Mechanism, Earth Reference Year 2392.81 A.D.  19:37 hrs.  His enormous physique will never be forgotten.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Blenheim

My nine 'Bounty Hunters of the Palace of Amino' novels feature many distinctive star ships.  The most notable is, of course, the Blenheim, the ship crewed by the two first-class bounty hunters, Peter the Ace and Panman. The ship is featured heavily in all those novels, and through the series I take the reader to many parts of the ship's sizable interior.

To help me write those sections I drew a schematic of that ship, which allowed me to better visualise how to the characters would move around, and also to maintain consistency.  I thought you might like to see it.

The Blenheim - Schematic
Schematic of the bounty hunter star ship, Blenheim
Those of you with a keen eye will also notice the Baby Blenheim, safely stowed away in its hanger bay.  The small shuttle/fighter ship showed it's formidable abilities in only two of the novels, 'Rise of the Dough Monster' and 'The Kretins of Doctor Combobulay'.


Welcome to 'Stories That Must Be Told'.  Soon I'll start to write about the origins of my novels and short stories published at www,, Also I hope to elaborate on some of the more unusual events in those stories, and how and why I included them.  And basically, anything else I can think of.  I hope you enjoy it.